Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Clean Smooth Ride

Beijing has a population of 15 million.

There are over 3 million private cars on the roads.

And now I find out there are only 66,000 taxis in the capital.

That explains why when it rains, cabs are as scarce as water in a desert.

I had thought there would be many more, but apparently not.

On the whole I haven't had many problems with taxi drivers. Most are polite, hardly say much, and get me to where I want to go.

In the past year I've learned to realize they are at the mercy of the traffic situation and so all I can do is sit back and enjoy the ride.

One time I took a cab and told the driver my office address. "I know," he said. "This is the third time I've taken you."


And then I got into another taxi during the evening rush hour. The driver wasn't too happy about having to fight the traffic and asked if I minded if he smoked. At first I made a face, as he's not supposed to light up if if the passenger doesn't let him.

But seeing as he was dying for a smoke I finally relented and he was a bit happier being able to chill out a bit as we inched our way along.

I'm mentioning my taxi stories because the Beijing Municipal Transport Law Enforcement General Team is cracking down on the city's cabs to make sure they're clean and not ripping off customers in the run-up to the Games.

More than inspectors are carrying out surprise checks and some will be stationed at particular intersections, mostly tourist-oriented areas.

Which explains why taxis are hard to find at the Beijing Railway Station. Apparently inspectors are scrutinizing many of the cabs, wearing white gloves to check the cleanliness inside.

While the exercise is meant to get the drivers ready to give a spic and span image of the city, on the whole almost all the cabs I've been in are pretty clean and decent.

There's no need really to fine them for small infractions because on the whole they're pretty good.

Perhaps people are already tired of everything being related to the Olympics and hope the event will be over soon. Then life can go back to normal.


ks said...

agree. too many restrictions, inspections etc would only make things worse. this is the principle of lao tze= non-governing is to govern. let the people be their own judge.

Flatbacker said...

I've heard the reason it's so impossible to get a taxi here when it rains is due to insurance. Accident rates go up with rainfall and the drivers are responsible for damages. I don't know if it's true, but I sure see a lot of them driving around empty when it rains.